Women are expected to have and do it all. Thrive in successful careers, nurture healthy marriages, pump out at least a few kids and raise them, cook, clean, all the while having a big smile on their faces and looking like a “yummy mummy”. God forbid you don’t follow any of patriarchal Western society’s pre-arranged plans for you or want anything different for your life or appear anything less than perfect. These unattainable standards forced upon women are at the heart of Jason Reitman’s latest film Tully. Reuniting once again with his frequent collaborator, screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult), and featuring a bravura performance from Charlize Theron (in an opposing role to her Young Adult character), Tully is an honest meditation on motherhood, aging and the support systems needed to manage both with grace.
When mother of three Marlo (Theron) is offered the services of a night nanny (the always welcome Mackenzie Davis) by her new age-y brother Craig (Mark Duplass), she initially scoffs at the ridiculous idea but then quickly warms up to it when caring for her newborn baby on top of her Autistic son and precocious daughter becomes too much to handle. With her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) all but checked out emotionally and physically, barely looking up from his Playstation every evening to even notice how exhausted his wife is, Marlo realizes that she needs help, even for just a few hours each night. When Tully (Davis) enters each night, she offers Marlo a respite and relief from her disappointing life. In the overnight hours she offers her sleep, a drinking buddy and a much needed ally.
There’s a narrative twist in the final third of the film that’s easy to spot but that’s the only weakness in this otherwise beautiful and heartbreaking film that all women will respond to.